Large groups can provide a deceptive sense of safety and security…
especially when you’ve got mischief on your mind!
Scientists have shown that the human brain isn’t fully developed until you’re 25 years old. That’s why there’s age restrictions leading up to that age. You need to be 18 to vote, 21 to drink and smoke, and renting a car requires you to be 25.
One of the ways you’re at greater risk of running into trouble with the law when you’re younger and still developing as a ‘person’ is simply by being in a group. Kids get into large groups, people suggest stupid ideas, and before you know it, everything’s gotten completely out of control. Many times, there’s a sense of invincibility like “Let’s go for it and take the risk – they cant catch us all!” however that usually doesn’t end well for the young risk takers.
Impulsively deciding to take a risk while hoping you’ll blend into a crowd isn’t the only danger you face by being in a large group of people. For many ‘good kids’ there’s still a risk of just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe you didn’t expect things to go bad, or perhaps you just went to watch a crowd and see what would happen out of curiosity. The reality is that if that crowd goes bad, you’re at risk of being accused of having been a part of it. Start thinking about it like this:
When it comes to large crowds disturbing the peace, police officers arrest anyone they can that’s present, whether they were taking part in an illegal activity or not. In this piece, we’re not saying that you should never hang out with your friends, we’re saying that you should be aware of how situations can get out of hand, and that you can be charged with a crime just for being present, even if you didn’t start it.
There are all sorts of ways this can play out in your life over the next few years. Consider one of the most likely scenarios you might find yourself in…a party.
House parties, especially ones that involve alcohol, can quickly get out of hand and force police intervention. It’s important to remember that if you’re younger than 21, having alcohol in your possession, even just being at a party where there’s alcohol and no adults, can lead to a Minor in Possession (MIP) if you’re caught. An MIP, meaning possessing or being drunk while under the age of 21, is a misdemeanor, and could mean fines and/or community service if charged.
A party doesn’t need to be in a house to hurt you and those around you, however. On May 17th, 2021, in Huntington Beach, California, a man named Adrian posted on their Tik Tok account about a party he was throwing for his birthday, which soon became viral, and soon became known as “Adrian’s Kickback”.
The crowd was huge, with partygoers overflowing into the streets, and fireworks were set off unsafely in the crowd. The police were eventually called, and were forced to use tear gas, a chemical that causes irritation to the eyes and lungs, and paintballs to disperse the crowd. 150 random partygoers were arrested by the officers, while the rest of the group fled the scene. Even though many avoided being arrested, if you were one of the partygoers, there was still a high chance of you being arrested and charged, even if you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Massive street parties can be dangerous, but huge parties in the suburbs can carry their own problems.. In October, 2020, a Las Vegas neighborhood had several massive parties disrupt the suburbs, with claims of the use of flamethrowers and rocket launchers in a residential area. Obviously, this behavior is unacceptable in a civilized world, and it could lead to disastrous consequences.
While no injuries or damages were reported, dangerous behavior like that could have led to a fire on other houses or serious injury. While the behavior itself already puts people in danger, it’s not even beginning to mention the arrests made at the party, and the various other crimes that police officers could have charged any of the partygoers with.
If you had happened to be one of the people arrested at that party, you could be held responsible for any illegal activity at the party. It’s best to choose who you hang out with carefully to avoid ending up in situations like this.
It’s not just parties that can land you in some trouble. In Las Vegas’ Meadows Mall in January of 2021, several different fights broke out among almost 200 students after they were denied entry into one of the stores in the mall. All of the kids were escorted off of the property, and several of them were arrested for fighting. The group gathered outside the bowling alley, and the rowdiness quickly dissolved into fights that needed police intervention to break up. Not only did it lead to loss of business for many of the companies in the mall, but it also led to juveniles being arrested essentially at random for breaching the peace and assault, both of which are misdemeanor charges.
When you’re in a large group, it’s easy to think that your behavior will go unnoticed because of the large number of people. However, just because a group is doing something rather than an individual doesn’t mean it will go unpunished. In 2011 in Las Vegas, a mob of teenagers robbed a convenience store, stealing nearly $600 worth of merchandise. While all of the teenagers were able to escape the scene, that definitely doesn’t mean they avoided consequences. The police treated the incident as grand larceny, and while the teens were only there for three minutes, other customers got pictures of license plates on cars. While you may be lucky enough to avoid being arrested in the moment, any one of the unlucky people that get arrested could easily name everyone involved, leading to a charge anyway.
Remember, it only takes a few people to turn a rowdy group into a riot, and for everyone to be blamed for the damage. Getting into a fight in public can lead to disorderly conduct charges, as well as assault charges if the other person tries to sue. It doesn’t matter who throws the first punch, only who was involved.
Violence and being a public nuisance (like Adrian’s Kickback) isn’t the only way that group thinking can get you into trouble with the law. Group pranks can also get people into a lot of trouble, as seen in at Truckee High School, California in 2005. A group of 28 high school seniors, hoping to get in a funny end-of-school prank, vandalized the school by spreading condiments and flour all over the hallways and lockers. When the police came, the majority of them ran away, but a few of them were caught on the roof. The rest eventually turned themselves in over the following few days.
The damage to the school totaled $5,100, which is just over the $5,000 limit for it to be considered a misdemeanor, and each of those 28 teens faced a felony charge for involvement in the destruction of school property. Thankfully, the teens were lucky enough to get a lesser sentence from the judge, and instead had to do 30 hours of community service each before leaving for college. However, if all the other kids had chosen not to come forward, the unlucky few that were caught could have been left with a felony on their permanent record.
All of these examples show two main ways of getting into trouble with groups: a sense of invincibility, and guilt by association. That ‘they can’t catch us all’ mentality may lead you to think you can get away with something, but with cameras placed everywhere today, it’s likely that you’ll be caught, and you could be severely punished as an example for others. Even if you didn’t do anything, we know by now that you can still get into trouble just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. ‘Constructive possession’, which is roughly the idea that because you’re near something illegal, you’re sort of responsible for it can lead to serious charges, even if you personally didn’t do anything.*
While it may not seem very serious, peer pressure is a real thing, and it makes people do stupid and dangerous stuff. This applies to people of all ages, but these situations are especially common among people between the ages of 15 – 25 years old. As you spend the next few years growing up, maturing, and gaining independence, keep in mind where you are and who you’re with, because it could be the difference between a fun party and a felony conviction.
*For example, if you get into a car your friend is driving and they are pulled over,
you can be arrested and charged with grand theft auto if the car is actually stolen…
even if they had told you that it was their car, and you had no idea!
That’s just one way that constructive possession can be charged.
Disturbing the peace (3 months in jail, $400 fine)
If you were arrested as a partygoer, and charged with two counts of each charge, how much money and how long of a prison sentence could you be facing?
Be sure to provide full explanations for each of your answers. For more details, you can read the articles this piece was sourced from here:
Contributed by: Ethan Champagne
Edited by: Mike Kamer